The Court goes through an extensive review of your finances when you are ordered to pay child support. The Court will look at your income and expenses and compare that information to the other parent’s finances. However, only certain money coming in is considered “income” for purposes of the child support calculation, and you may be entitled to certain deductions as well. Knowing what counts and what does not can help you ensure that your child support order is fair and accurate.
How is Child Support Calculated in Florida?
Florida has a set calculation that it uses to determine the correct amount of child support for your situation. The Court will look at a specific pre-determined chart, referred to as the Florida Child Support Guidelines, to decide how much child support is appropriate—it is just a matter of doing some simple math.
As a rule, the system attempts to determine how much income the couple would have earned if they stayed in one household. Then, the figure is divided in half, and the Court will award an amount that will ensure that the parent who makes less receives child support.
The guidelines allow the court some flexibility, and the judge can deviate from the guidelines in circumstances that warrant the divergence.
Income for Child Support Purposes
The definition of income for child support purposes in Florida is extensive. The definition is even more expansive than what the IRS considers income. The most common sources of income include:
- Disability Benefits
- Workers’ Compensation
- Unemployment Benefits
- Pension and Annuity Payments
- Social Security Benefits
- Income from Trusts, Estates
Income does not include Social Security payments that are used to take care of a child when the other parent is absent, however. Apart from that limited exception, most sources of income will be considered to calculate child support.
Deductions from Income
Although Florida law demands that you include all income in your calculation for child support, you can deduct specific amounts from the total income number. These costs are for necessary living expenses necessary for both you and your other dependents. Deductions may include:
- Tax deductions
- Actual filing status and allowable dependents
- Social Security and Medicare withholdings
- Mandatory retirement payments
- Health insurance payments
- Court-ordered child support involving other children
In some situations, the Court can “impute” your income. That means that can “tack on” a certain amount of income even when you are not earning it. This may sound outrageous, but the purpose behind this ability is to prevent parents from being unemployed or underemployed purposefully to avoid paying their child support obligations.
If a parent is deliberately taking a job that is below their ability or experience level, then the Court may award child support based on what the parent should be earning if they had a job that was a match with their experience and skills. The court will consider the parent’s education, experience, work history, and general qualifications in making this type of determination.
The Court generally will not impute income if it finds that the parent has a health condition or other limitation that prevents him or her from working to their full potential.
To learn more about child support in Florida, contact Blair H. Chan, III, PLLC today!